Lawsuit Filed to Keep Gun Retailers Open During Coronavirus Shutdown

For immediate release: April 10, 2020

Denver, CO — Gun rights organizations joined forces today to file a lawsuit in the federal district court of New Mexico, arguing that firearms retailers, repair shops and shooting ranges must be allowed to stay open despite coronavirus-related shutdowns in the state.

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham issued emergency shut down orders for all non-essential businesses by March 24, 2020. She extended the shut down through April 30, 2020.

The list of essential businesses did not include firearms retailers, manufacturers and ranges. Days later, on March 28, the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security issued a memorandum classifying them as essential businesses, but the New Mexico order remained unchanged.

Mountain States Legal Foundation (MSLF) filed the lawsuit today, challenging the closure order for gun retailers, repair shops and gun ranges, on behalf of a group of plaintiffs that includes the National Rifle Association, Second Amendment Foundation, Firearms Policy Coalition (FPC), and New Mexico Shooting Sports Association (NMSSA) along with various gun retailers and individuals Robert Aragon, a lifelong public servant, Zachary Fort, a concealed handgun license holder and NMSSA president, and Anthony Segura, a licensed firearms instructor.

“First, I would like to thank the NRA, Second Amendment Foundation, Firearm Policy Coalition and Mountain States Legal Foundation for partnering with us to stand up and fight for the rights of New Mexicans,” said NMSSA President Zachary Fort. “The failure of New Mexico’s leaders to recognize our right to self-defense has not only diminished our rights, it has left New Mexicans vulnerable.”

Fort added, “This legal action seeks to restore our constitutional rights and protect New Mexicans by bringing New Mexico into alignment with guidance from the Dept. of Homeland Security that firearms retailers and shooting ranges are essential businesses.”

The closure of firearms retailers in the state represents a clear violation of the Second Amendment protected rights of New Mexico citizens.

Federal law almost entirely prohibits the sale of firearms except through authorized sellers at physical retail locations. Just last year, New Mexico passed a law requiring nearly every firearm sale or transfer to be done by a federally licensed dealer — and now the governor has closed all of those dealers. Therefore, the closure of physical retail locations unlawfully impinges on citizens’ rights as guaranteed under the Constitution.

“The government has no duty to protect you and coronavirus-related impacts to law enforcement could be significant, so times like now are precisely when people must be able to acquire self-defense tools to defend their lives and homes,” FPC President Brandon Combs said. “We are proud to participate in this important case to defend the People’s right to keep and bear arms against government abuses in New Mexico.”

Record numbers of Americans purchased a firearm last month. More than 3.7 million FBI background checks were conducted in March, the highest monthly total on record. The number of checks for gun purchases was up 80% over March of 2019. This surge in demand demonstrates that Americans do in fact deem firearms to be “essential” in this time of national uncertainty.

“A historic surge in demand shows that the right to legally purchase a firearm is something the American people consider to be essential,” said Cody Wisniewski, MSLF’s lead attorney on the case. “Americans understand that the ability to protect yourself and your family is paramount.”

Mountain States Legal Foundation is a nonprofit, public-interest legal foundation dedicated to individual liberty, the right to own and use property, limited and ethical government, and the free enterprise system. Its offices are located outside Denver, Colorado.  

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Robert Aragon, et al. v. Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, et al.

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